Leijonborg fights to win confidence

Liberal leader Lars Leijonborg fought to win back confidence when he appeared for an hour-long grilling on public television on Thursday evening.

The Liberals have faced a nightmare week after the Social Democrats announced late on Sunday night that unauthorized people who had logged into their internal network had been traced back to Liberal Party headquarters.

Entering the studio on Thursday he confessed that it was a night of destiny.

For the first 15 minutes of the interview he faced intensive questioning about the scandal, over which several senior party staff, including party secretary Johan Jakobsson, have been forced to resign. Has all the information about the scandal now been told to the public, he was asked.

“I think that further details or people could still come out, but I think that we have presented the main picture,” he said, and asked the Swedish people for forgiveness.

He also maintained that he knew nothing about the unauthorized log-ins until Sunday evening. But he added that in hindsight he wished he had been informed by Jakobsson back in March.

“But to be fair I have to consider how the situation was back then,” said Leijonborg in Jakobsson’s defence.

He said he didn’t think that the party’s core policies, with measures to fight benefit cheats, tougher sentences for crimes and more police, had lost credibility now that leading party members are the subjects of criminal investigations.

Indeed, Leijonborg said that the party was on the right path again.

The Liberal leader was on more stable ground when the subject turned to justice, integration and education. He defended the party’s proposal to allow bugging and the idea to demand that people who want to become Swedish citizens should be able to speak Swedish.

“It sends a signal that if you live in Sweden, it’s very important that you can speak Swedish,” he said.

After the questioning was over, Leijonborg looked more self-assured and positive than he had for days. He looked moved as he accepted congratulations from members of Liberal youth movement LUF. Asked how he felt about the call from leading party members for a national conference to discuss whether he could remain leader, he replied that he didn’t have time now to think about what happens after the election.”

“I am completely focused on the 17th September,” he said.

But he was more positive to the idea of a crisis commission, as proposed by the party’s justice spokesman, Johan Pehrson.

“It sounds like a contribution to the comeback I’m talking about now. I am not against the idea,” he said.

The evening before, prime minister Göran Persson said he wouldn’t buy a used car from Leijonborg. But the Liberal leader replied that he actually had an eco-car for sale, if Persson was offering the right price.

On a more serious note, he added:

“I don’t have even the slightest bad conscience for anything I said to him. His tears are just crocodile tears,” he said.